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Local family remembers soldier through his newborn baby girl

May 27, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
One Southern California woman is living with emotions that fill both ends of the spectrum -- the joy of her daughter's birth six days ago and the death of her husband one week prior.

"Bittersweet, up and down, it's happy and sad," she said.

Her husband, 24-year-old Army Spc. William "Willie" Gilbert, was killed May 14 while serving his first tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Gilbert, Sgt. Jeffrey Baker of Hesperia and two other soldiers died when their unit was attacked with an improvised explosive device.

"No one expected this. Willie had even said that it had been very quiet all during the winter season. He was comfortable with that and he felt very secure in what he was doing," said his mother, Jodi Gilbert. "He was going to be a dad. He was so excited about it."

Willie Gilbert was described by many as a gentle giant. His widow says their daughter looks like a miniature version of Willie, dimples and all. Someday, the baby will hear stories about her dad, who died a hero.

"He was the best. He treated me really well. I'm going to tell her stories about him so she knows how great he was," she said.

Willie had planned on seeing the birth of his daughter via Skype. He lost his own father when he was 14, and said he wanted to do something meaningful with his life.

"He was proud. He'd be even prouder now to see how many people are acknowledging him," said his wife.

Willie Gilbert's mother said the family will do what they can to support each other.

"This is powerful. We're going through some emotions that are so high and so low. We will fill her and fill the baby with all the love that we can," said Jodi Gilbert.

For the Gilbert family, Memorial Day has changed forever.


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